HSP260 Hospitality Risk Management and Guest Security
Doughnuts and Dilemmas 28 Phil Watson, the general manager of the Bluestone Hotel, was just settling down to some early morning paperwork when the buzzer on his intercom sounded. He pushed the speaker button:
"Yes, Jean?" "There's a Douglas Koneval on line two. He wants to know if you've still got `Calamity Jane' in your `bag.' He said you'd know what he's talking about." Phil chuckled. "Put him through, put him through." Phil waited for the muffled click, and then said: "Doug!" "Phil! You still trying to make putts with that beat up old putter of yours!?" "Hey, that putter was good enough to send you back to the clubhouse a broken and defeated man! How've you been? I haven't heard from you in a while." "Actually, I've been pretty busy," Doug said. "You heard I'm at the Wellington now, right?" The Wellington was an independent hotel upstate. "No, I didn't know that." "Yes, I took the GM job a couple of months ago." "Your first job as a general manager! That's great! How's it working out for you?" "Well, that's why I'm calling. Things have been going pretty smoothly so far - there's a good staff here, and I've got ideas for improving some things, but something happened yesterday that got me thinking about security issues here at the hotel. It was nothing major - we had a loud guest get a little belligerent when we asked him to quiet down - but it hit me that I don't have a contact at the local police department yet and I really don't know how to go about making one. You've been at the Bluestone for a lot of years, and I know you have an excellent relationship with the police. I was hoping I could pick your brain a bit this morning and get some ideas on how I can establish a good relationship with the police here in my little community." Phil laughed. "Well, I don't know that I've got anything spectacular to offer, but I can share some basics with you that just about any general manager would probably try." "That's just what I need." "Well," Phil began, "the first thing I'd do is arrange to have lunch with the police chief. I can't remember - does the Wellington have F&B?" "Yes, we have a nice little restaurant on-site." "Well, I'd invite him to the restaurant. Is the police chief a `him' or a `her,' by the way?" "It's a `him,'" Doug replied. "Malcolm Ramsey is his name. I've never met him, but I've heard he's an okay guy to deal with." "Invite Malcolm to the restaurant, have a nice lunch, and just introduce yourself and get to know him a little. If he has the time, ask him to walk around the property with you after lunch and point out any security concerns you should be aware of." "Great idea! I could even have him write something up for me, a report that I could -" "Whoa, stop right there!" Phil interjected. "You do not want anything in writing from Malcolm." "I don't? Why not? He might come up with some great suggestions that would really make the property safe." "Yes, he might, but he might also come up with suggestions that you could never afford to implement. If you have a written report lying around with some security advice in it that you didn't act on and something happens at the hotel -" Phil shrugged. "You could be in serious trouble if that report winds up in court." 29 "Good point. Okay, nothing in writing. What else should I do?" "Well, let Malcolm know that you're interested in a good relationship with his department and that you're willing to do what you can to accommodate his officers. Let him know that officers out on patrol are welcome to stop by and use the hotel's restrooms, for example. If the officers are tired of writing out police reports with their clipboards balanced on their knees or on steering wheels, they can come by and use a table in the employee breakroom. And they're welcome to just stop by for coffee and pastries." "Doughnuts still work," Doug laughed. "Yes, they do," Phil agreed. "And little courtesies can pay big dividends when something happens at your property. Three weeks ago we had a `domestic situation' occur in one of our rooms. Our front desk got a call around midnight - `Hey, there's a racket going on next door, I can't sleep' - and Sylvia at the front desk says, `Okay, I'll take care of it.' She calls the room - 410, I think it was - and asks them to pipe down. She gets a response like: `Oh, no problem. Sorry,' et cetera, et cetera. A few minutes later, the phone rings again - `Hey, they're still going at it in Room 410; now some woman's crying in there' - so Sylvia contacts the security guard and the manager on duty, Bret Russell. The two of them go up to the room and knock on the door. `What's going on? Is everyone okay?' `Yeah, yeah,' the man inside says, `we're just arguing a little bit.' `Open the door, please.' So the door opens and this guy is standing there in his underwear, the desk lamp's turned over, and a woman's standing on the other side of the bed in a nightshirt, a hand cupped over one eye. `Ma'am, are you okay?' `Yeah, I'm okay, we're just having a little disagreement, that's all. Everything's cool.' `Are you sure?' `Yeah, we're done.' `We'll pay for the damages,' the guy says, so Bret says, `All right, we'll leave, but take it easy in here, okay?' `Sure thing, we're sorry,' the guy says. So Bret and the security guard leave the room and they don't even get all the way down the hall to the elevator before they hear the guy start yelling again and another lamp go over. `That's it,' Bret says, `we're calling the police.' "And the officers were great. Two squad cars were at the hotel within five minutes, and ten minutes later the husband was in one of them, on his way to jail. The other officer stayed with the wife while she packed and went to the front desk to pay the bill, then he took her to a shelter for battered women. The whole thing was over in 20 minutes and they handled it beautifully. Real quiet. None of the other guests even knew the officers had been there." "That's the kind of cooperation I'm looking for," Doug said. "What about hiring off-duty police officers for hotel security work? Is that a good idea?"
"Two words," Phil replied. "`No guns.'" "`No guns'?" "That's right. Off-duty officers can be good additions to your staff - if you tell them that you don't want guns on your property. It's a liability issue. Even though these officers are on the city's police force, when you hire them, they're working for you. If they accidentally shoot an innocent bystander, the hotel is on the hook, not the city." "That's good to know," Doug said. "Should I just approach the officers individually with offers?" "I'd ask the chief about it during your lunch with him. Just tell him what you are considering, and ask him what his policy is. Some police departments don't allow their officers to do freelance security work. On the other extreme, some departments have a sergeant in charge of evenly distributing that kind of work among the officers. Other departments let individual officers cut their own deals."
"You've given me a lot to think about," Doug said, in that tone of voice people get when they are winding down their phone call. "I really want to get started on the right foot with Malcolm. A good relationship with the police is really important." Doug took his cue to sum up. "Well, the thing to do first is to set up a lunch with Malcolm and let him know that you want to do what it takes to have a positive working relationship with his department." "Hey, thanks for the time, Phil. I gotta run, but I really appreciate your ideas. I'll let you know how things work out." "Do that, Doug, and best of luck to you. I know you'll do well." 30 Phil no sooner hung up the telephone when the intercom buzzer sounded again. "Yes, Jean?" "Lieutenant Foster is here to see you." What a coincidence, Phil thought. "Send him in, please." The office door opened and Jean showed in one of the lieutenants on the local police force. Phil came around from behind his desk and shook his hand warmly. "Hi, Glenn, nice to see you again. What brings you out our way?" "Good morning, Phil." Glenn took a seat in one of the two chairs in front of Phil's desk. Phil, rather than sit behind his desk, sat in the other. "I got a problem that maybe you can help me with," Glenn continued. "The FBI called me a few minutes ago, looking for -," Glenn paused to pull a notebook out of the inside pocket of his sport coat -" looking for a `Ruben Drosha.' I guess this guy's really bad news. We need to know if he's at the hotel, what phone calls he's made, and his credit card number. They're trying to track where he's been. You know the drill." Phil shifted in his seat uncomfortably.
"Do you have subpoenas for any of that stuff, Glenn? Because if you don't, you know the only thing I can legally tell you is whether he's registered at the hotel." Glenn snorted. "Get real, Phil, this is a Saturday. All the judges are up north getting their fishing boats out about now. Like I said, the FBI just called me. I was hoping we could keep this on an informal, friendly basis." Phil shook his head. "Sorry, Glenn, but I just can't do it. I can tell you if he's here or not, and I can put a call through to his room if you want to talk to him, but that's as far as I can go without a court order." "I'm sorry you feel that way." Glenn stood up, signaling an end to the discussion. Phil stood up, too. "The chief will be disappointed. He thought you'd be more cooperative," Glenn said quietly. "But I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. Let's go check reservations and see if Drosha's here. It's not much, but at least I won't go back to the FBI entirely empty-handed."
1. In addition to the things Phil mentioned to Doug, what other things can Doug do to promote a good relationship with his local police department?
2. The "domestic situation" that occurred at Phil's hotel could have turned out much worse. What are some of the things that could have gone wrong, had it been handled less effectively by hotel staff members?
3. Despite Phil's advice to Doug about establishing a good working relationship with the police, and despite Phil's wish to preserve his relationship with his own local police force, Phil turned down Lieutenant Foster's request for information about a man wanted by the FBI. Why did Phil refuse to give Foster all of the information he wanted?